By Ron Alexander
Intuition can be a powerful tool for making decisions, but how do you know that your gut feeling is coming from inner awareness and not inner resistance? Unbeknownst to you, your gut feeling may come not from inner awareness but from inner resistance. Hidden fears can cloud your insights and steer you wrong. Your instincts may be like fool’s gold instead of the genuine article.
To discover if you’ve mined true inner wisdom, use the following steps from my book Wise Mind, Open Mind for mindful exploration. Bring an attitude of curiosity and openness to each step. Remember, no one’s perfect, so don’t be ashamed of any unwholesome qualities that come forth as a result of making these inquiries.
- Think about your current situation and note the quality of the emotions and thoughts you’re experiencing. If what you’re feeling doesn’t support a sense of well-being, what seems to be intuition may actually be a reaction to your hidden emotions.
- As you think about the decision you’re making and your instincts, notice any feelings of urgency and anxiousness and any rigid, heavy, contracted sensations in your body. Ask yourself, “Where is this feeling or sensation coming from?” Be still and listen to the answer. Be open to what you may discover.
- Ask yourself, “If I were acting out of dis-empowering feelings and thoughts, such as fear, jealousy, unworthiness, or vindictiveness, what would I say and do? Is that how I’m behaving now? And how would I react if someone confronted me about my behavior?”
- List three reasons why you might feel angry, scared, insecure, etc. Then ask yourself what you’re feeling right now.
If you discover that what you’re experiencing might be fool’s gold, but you’re not sure, you can explore it further by gathering evidence that it is or isn’t true. Let’s say that you think your partner’s angry with you, although she denies it. Ask her to explain why she behaved in a way that made you think she was angry (for example, she slammed a door or spoke in a sharp tone of voice). If she responds that you’ve interpreted her behavior incorrectly and she has a plausible excuse, be mindful of how you feel as she issues her denial. Do you feel confident that your intuition was wrong and you misinterpreted the situation, or do you still feel a sense of danger, threat, uneasiness, or discomfort? Trust this reaction, even if you can’t justify it rationally. You may not be able to gather any more information immediately, but you can make note of what you’ve felt and experienced, and use it to inform you in the future.
As you allow your hidden emotions to rise up into your awareness, know that any suffering they cause you will soon disappear and you’ll have cleared the way for your genuine intuition, the real gold of your inner wisdom, to reveal itself.
Ronald Alexander, Ph.D. is the author of the widely acclaimed book, Wise Mind, OpenMind: Finding Purpose and Meaning in Times of Crisis, Loss, and Change. He is the director of the OpenMind Training® Institute, practices mindfulness-based mind-body psychotherapy and leadership coaching in Santa Monica, CA, for individuals and corporate clients. To learn more about Ron, please visit his website.